Without sounding over-biased, there are certainly smaller hoards of tourists (or at least they manage to blend more with the bricks and the locals) and the atmosphere is pretty unique. So I thought to compile a list of the best gourmet places which might help all those of you who would like to go back or are planning a trip soon to Siena.
Just in case you doubt my local nose and taste-buds living 600km away from it, I have done my thorough research and checked with a few affecionados who know everything about Siena, where to get the best ham and cheese, where to eat the crunchiest pizza or where to sip the best Vin Santo with a couple of cantucci.
- Fortress Market: from 7am to 1pm every Wednesday of the month the entire perimeter of the Medieval city walls gets carpeted with dozens of stalls from cloths, shoes, bags, and, best of all, fresh produce including fruit and vegetable, bread, cakes, meat and fish. If you feel peckish after your shopping, do not miss the porchetta stall. You can have a large panino for only €4 stuffed with porchetta, a hog roast which in Tuscany is cooked with a mixture of rosemary, sage, salt and pepper (while in Umbria for example wild fennel is added).
- Pizzeria Poppi, in via dei Banchi di Sotto (just behind Piazza del Campo) is THE place for the perfect pizza, and in particular a stuffed white pizza, ciaccino ripieno, filled with cooked ham and mozzarella -soft, stringy and crunchy at the same time.
- For a good ice cream, gelato, try the local Caribia in via Rinaldini (first road on the left facing the City Hall in the Piazza) or the ethical Grom (originated in Milan) which changes flavours every month and sources ingredients from all over the world (the best I had last Summer was "Caramel with salt").
- Candied fruit, spices, chocolate, and mint & milk sweets are at Manganelli in via del Corso (next to Accademia Chigiana), a real Alladin's cave filled with smells and colours which will bring you automatically back to the middle ages. Don't leave without a slice of their peppery panforte.
- Ham and cheese cannot be missed at Pizzicheria de Miccoli with a very intellectual wild boar above the entrance. Don't leave without due etti (200g) of Prosciutto Toscano and a large slice of Pecorino di Fossa (sheep cheese matured in a muslin cloth and kept buried in a pit for 3 months). Perfect for a tasty picnic.
- For a sweet treat, stop at Pasticceria Sinatti in via del Paradiso (opposite the public library) and try either "Brutti ma buoni" (ugly but good) biscuits or the typical diamond shaped almond cakes which every family in Siena eats during the Christmas period. They are soft and lightly flavoured of orange and anise seed - a bite of paradise!
- Osteria Le Logge in via del Porrione (on the left hand side of the city hall of Piazza del Campo) serves traditional dishes with a twist in a relaxed atmosphere - I love the book case filled with bottles!
- Another wonderful place to have your dinner is Trattoria da Renzo which serves seriously great food for very reasonable prices (you can have 5 course for €25!).
- When I was at school a must-stop was "Il Grattacielo", the Skyscraper, in via delle Terme; the name is exactly the opposite of what the place is, a tiny, low-ceiling tavern where to sample traditional dishes like fagioli all'uccelletta (beans with sausages) or al fiasco (kept in a barrel of oil for a month) as well pappa al pomodoro (bread soup) and panzanella (a bread salad with tomatoes, basil and onions), delicious in the Summer!
- Be a real Italian and don't miss "aperitif" - you order a glass of wine or Spritz (a mixture of Prosecco, Aperol and Soda) - and enjoy a spread of small bites from focaccia, to ham and olive, pasta salad or crostini. The best place for the young vibe is at Cafe' di Beccaria via Beccheria (which offers a breath-taking view of the Romanesque San Domenico) and always full of University students (except in August which is the only month with no exams) while for the spread of varied food head to Cafe' Nannini either in via del Corso standing up with your glass of Aperol or sitting down soaking the atmosphere of "Il Campo" with a glass of Prosecco.
I hope you won't forget these "wisdom in pills" and will try everything I suggest - I promise, you won't put on weight! Everything is very genuine and the ups and downs of Siena will help burn the calories!